Thursday, July 15, 2010

Disciplining Children in Africa

After we send the kids home from the orphanage around 4:30-5pm, I go home and take my second shower of the day. The first shower is a bucket shower at the compound where I live at lunch time and the second shower is a western style shower at a nearby house, which means that I can actually wash my hair, something I have not yet learned how to master with a bucket shower.

After this second shower, I usually hang out outside with the local kids, many of whom attend Christ Orphanage. They love seeing me outside of school and the more personalized attention I can give them since there are not a hundred other children yearning for attention at the same time. Instead, there are only between 2-15 other children, which I have to admit is still a lot!

This evening, I was at the neighbor’s compound, playing with about 10 children, having a good time. All of the sudden, I heard a girl screaming and witnessed a woman beating the 12 year old girl who lives with her. I am not sure what their relation is but I know that they are related in some fashion. The woman beat the girl with the flat side of a machete as the girl screamed in agony. It killed me. No one got up. No one did anything. Everyone just turned and watched as the girl screamed and tried to run away. What killed me even more was the fact that I felt that if I did or said anything, it would just make things worse and possibly result in another beating of the girl. I felt so helpless and wished that I could have done something.

About a half hour later, when the girl had stopped crying and screaming, she came over and sat by me. I asked her why she was beaten but she refused to tell me. It saddens me that it was probably over something so small, something that doesn’t really even matter in the long run.

I left the kids for awhile to return home and eat my dinner before returning to play with them for a little longer. As it was dark and getting late, I told them that I would see them tomorrow and returned home to go to sleep. As much as I tried, I couldn’t get this incident out of my head. It breaks my heart to even think about it. Maybe it is ethnocentric of me to think this way. I realize that in America, parents used to beat their children too. But although we have become developed in America and now categorize such behavior as ‘child abuse,’ they have not yet gotten to that point in Africa.

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